04/18/2011OLD AND NEW LOOK THE SAME IN CUBA
WASHINGTON — While the rest of the world seems rent by violence and "breaking news," obstreperous little Cuba has seemed unusually quiet these last few years.
True, every once in a while the voice of Cuban Presidente Raul Castro cuts dramatically through the miasmic tropical haze, as it did last year when he announced that 500,000 state workers (of 11 million Cubans) would be laid off and moved over into more-or-less free-market jobs.
But when a list of the jobs available for these workers came out months later, it was close to laughable — only the lowest or most inconsequential jobs were included in this vast employees' "revolution." And this year Raul indefinitely delayed even that change.
So, where IS Cuba today? Is it possible that after 52 years of rule by the Castro brothers, the beautiful, but impoverished island has changed? My FIRM and unalterable analysis is that it is beginning to change … but maybe not.
Someday, some good writer will pen the fascinating story, not of Cuba, but of the two brothers Castro — Fidel and Raul — and how their lives and interaction with each other have changed the history of Cuba. And it may not be the story that many expect.
The government-approved story of this weekend in Havana, for instance, seemed to be all Raul's. As formal president of the country, and as fighter jets stormed above him, he used the opening of the Sixth Communist Party Congress to announce a whole battery of changes: Politicians would be limited to two five-year terms, not, as under communism, terms of "forever." Monthly ration books would be eliminated because of a belated realization: "No country or person can spend more than they have. Two plus two is four. Never five, much less six or seven, as we have sometimes pretended." Over 180,000 licenses would be granted for small businesses (but not for the first time).
Me? A Soldier? / Claudia CadeloClaudia Cadelo, Translator: Unstated
Slogan: Let the enemies of the people tremble when every woman is a soldier for the Fatherland.FMC = Cuban Women's Federation
Every time I pass by 21st and Paseo it turns my stomach. A cross the street and I can't help but read the enormous sign that illustrates this post. Signed by the Cuban Women's Federation (FMC), it gives the idea that I all the women of the island are some kind of army ready to fire on the enemy. I'm not even a soldier of my own causes, how could I be one for the causes of the FMC?
It bothers me greatly that the multiple mass organizations which supposedly represent groups of Cubans feel like they have the right to speak for everyone, robbing individuals of their voices to make them into the single voice of the apparatus of control. Why are we urged to a militancy that we don't need? Who said I'm not a die-hard civilian? Since when did we Cuban women form a battalion for the defense of the fatherland?
In His Own Way / Yoani SánchezTranslator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez
And now, the end is nearand so I facethe final curtain…
To say goodbye can be accomplished with just a brief note left on the table, or by a telephone call where we say our final farewells. In the preparations to leave the country, at the end of a relationship, or of life itself, there are people who try to control the smallest details, draw up those limits that oblige the ones they leave behind to follow their path. Some leave slamming the door behind them, and others demand before taking off the great tribute they think they deserve. There are those who equitably distribute all their worldly goods, and also beings with so much power they change the constitution of a country so that no one can undo their work when they're gone.
The preparations for the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party and its sessions in the Palace of Conventions have been like a great public requiem for Fidel Castro. The scene of his farewell, the meticulous ceremonial demanded by him and realized — sparing no expense — by his younger brother. In the organizational excesses of the military parade, held on April 16, was seen the intention to "spare no expense" in a final tribute to someone who could not be there on the podium. It was clear that the announcement of the names of who would assume the highest positions in the Cuban Communist Party would not be read by the man who decided the course of this nation for almost fifty years. But he sat at the head table of the event to validate, with his presence, the transfer of power to Raul Castro. Being there was like coming — still alive — to the reading of his own will.
Then came the standing ovation, the tears of this or that delegate to the party conclave, and the phrases of eternal commitment to the old man with the almost white beard. Through the television screen some of us sensed the crackling of dried-up flowers or the sound of shovelfuls of dirt. It remains to be see if the General-cum-President can sustain the heavy legacy he has received, or if under the watchful supervision of his Big Brother he would prefer not to contradict him with fundamental reforms. It's just left to check the authenticity of Fidel Castro's departure from public life, and whether his substitute will choose to continue disappointing us, or to reject him.
April 19, 2011
Yoani no cree en "retiro" de Fidel Castro
La bloguera independiente cubana, autora de Generación Y, analiza "el ceremonial minucioso" reclamado por Fidel Castro para su presunta despedida.
martinoticias.com 20 de abril de 2011
"Queda por ver si el General Presidente (Raúl Castro) podrá sostener el pesado legado que ha recibido, o si bajo la mirada supervisora de su Gran Hermano preferirá no contradecirlo con reformas medulares"
La bloguera Yoani Sánchez comentó que "los preparativos para el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista Cubano y sus sesiones en el Palacio de las Convenciones han sido como un gran réquiem público para Fidel Castro".
Yoani destacó "el ceremonial minucioso" reclamado por Fidel y realizado por su hermano Raúl "sin escatimar recursos".
La bloguera señaló que "ya en los excesos organizativos del desfile militar, efectuado el 16 de abril, se percibía una intención de 'gastárselas todas' en un homenaje final a alguien que no pudo asistir a la tribuna".
Ahora, dijo Yoani, "queda por ver si el General Presidente (Raúl Castro) podrá sostener el pesado legado que ha recibido, o si bajo la mirada supervisora de su Gran Hermano preferirá no contradecirlo con reformas medulares".
La autora de Generación Y concluyó que "falta comprobar cuán auténtica es esta despedida de Fidel Castro de la vida política y si su sustituto optará por seguir defraudándonos o por negarlo a él".
Cuba: Will More Political Prisoners Be Released?Church Says There Is Still More to Do
HAVANA, Cuba, APRIL 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cuban President Raúl Castro is stating that the process of releasing "prisoners of conscience" has ended, though the archbishopric of Havana noted that there is still work to be done.
On April 8, 37 former Cuban prisoners arrived in Madrid, Spain, after being released from prison according to an agreement initiated last July between the Cuban and Spanish governments, mediated by the Catholic Church.
On the day the prisoners arrived in Madrid, the Spanish foreign affairs ministry published a note in which it stated that the liberation process had been concluded as agreed upon.
At the end of the process, a total of 115 former prisoners arrived in Spain, accompanied by 647 relatives.
Castro also noted the fulfillment of this commitment in his address to the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) in Havana. He expressed gratitude to the Spanish government for its part in the process.
However, in a note published April 12, the archbishopric of Havana suggested that a similar dialogue could continue with governments of other countries that are prepared to receive former Cuban prisoners.
In addition to receiving the former prisoners, the Spanish authorities are providing aid in the form of economic assistance, housing, legal advice, psychological assistance, schooling of minors, including facilitating the approval of school and university titles, assistance in work integration and health care.
Three NGOs are also aiding the Cuban exiles: The Red Cross, the Spanish Commission of Aid to Refugees (CEAR), and the Spanish Catholic Commission of Migrations Association (ACCEM).
Many of the former prisoners are still waiting to receive work permits, Europa Press reported, and in the meantime are pursuing sporadic jobs in plumbing, masonry and carpentry.
In Castro's address, the president also invited his political party to engage in "severe self-criticism," so as to correct the deficiencies in the progress of the country.
Former prisoner of conscience Miguel Galbán Gutiérrez commented on the president's address, noting on his blog that Castro "has made some adjustments, some slight adjustments in his plans to avoid the riots of the Arab world splashing him and his angering the population."
Gutiérrez observed that Castro "is moving with caution, very well advised; the announced dismissals are partially blocked and the elimination of rationing has been slowed down."
Cuba's new blood: 80-year-old Castro allyRandal ArchiboldApril 21, 2011
CUBA has made the most significant change to its leadership since the 1959 revolution.
For the first time it has named someone other than the Castro brothers to fill the second-highest position in the Communist Party, possibly setting the stage for their successor.
The appointment, at the party's first congress in 14 years, coincided with a blizzard of changes opening the way for more private enterprise.Advertisement: Story continues belowFidel Castro (left) raises his brother Raul's hand as they sing the anthem of international socialism at the Communist Party Congress in Havana.
Fidel Castro (left) raises his brother Raul's hand as they sing the anthem of international socialism at the Communist Party Congress in Havana. Photo: AP
Taken together, the actions were meant to pull the revolution, at 53, out of a midlife crisis that has led to a sinking economy and, even in the estimation of President Raul Castro, stagnant thinking.
But Mr Castro, for all his talk about the need to rejuvenate, in the end stuck with the old guard for now, many of them fellow military officers.
''The rebel army is the soul of the revolution,'' he said, quoting his newly retired brother, Fidel.
The new No. 2 is not the young up-and-comer Raul Castro, 79, had hinted he might select to guide a post-Castro era. Instead, he tapped a party stalwart, Jose Ramon Machado, 80, who fought beside him in the mountains during the rebellion.
Mr Castro did, however, appoint several people younger than 70 to the central committee and three to the 15-member Politburo, including the architect of the current round of economic changes, possibly grooming them for bigger roles.
Mr Castro acknowledged that his generation had lagged in preparing young leaders, saying Cuba lacked ''a reserve of substitutes with the sufficient maturity and experience to take over the principal duties of the country.''
Some analysts disputed that, saying his moves merely solidified his power against stirrings from those who are young and progressive.
''What it means is any generational change and the implementation of reforms will be guided by the 'historicos' – or perhaps better put, constrained by the history of the Cuban revolution and the memories and goals of its founders,'' said Christopher Sabatini, a Cuba scholar who edits Americas Quarterly.
Fidel Castro, 84, who had been absent from the proceedings over the weekend, looked on, dressed in a dark warm-up suit over a checkered shirt and helped at times by aides when he stood to clap, which he did especially vigorously for his brother.
Given Mr Machado's age, some doubted that he would succeed Raul Castro. Instead, as a trusted lieutenant, he may play a pivotal role in helping to choose a successor and under what structure he may govern.
Aside from being a fellow combatant during the revolution, Mr Machado may have also appealed to Mr Castro because of his role overseeing the inner workings of the party, said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a University of Denver lecturer and former political analyst in the Cuban Interior Ministry. He is in charge of an office approving promotions and developing ties with party leaders across the island.
''Machado will be a key factor in choosing not only the successor but also the structure of separation of powers destined to replace, within the party and between party and government, the current model of 'Castro in command,''' Mr Lopez-Levy said.
Raul Castro, as expected, took the top position of the party and read a list of leadership changes that made official his brother's departure from the ranks of the party he founded. Fidel Castro, warmly cheered by party members, announced last month that he was no longer first secretary of the party, but his name still appeared on lists.
Raul Castro, aside from offering the usual lashing words towards the US, portrayed the changes as an upgrade of Cuban socialism, rather than a reboot that could open the way to full-bore capitalism.
''I assume my post to defend, preserve and continue perfecting socialism and never permit the return of capitalism,'' he said.
Raul Castro to lead Cuba's Communist Party From Shasta Darlington, CNNApril 20, 2011 — Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
On the last day of the crucial party congress that approved sweeping economic changes, 84-year-old Fidel Castro made an unannounced appearance.
The two brothers, who have rarely appeared together since Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his 79-year-old brother, grabbed hands at the end of the closing ceremony, sending a strong message of unity.
The delegates also selected one of Raul Castro's closest allies, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 80, to the No. 2 position.
That move could come as a disappointment to some who had hoped Raul Castro would follow through on his call for a rejuvenation of top posts.
When Raul Castro was officially elected president in 2008, he backed Machado Ventura to succeed him as the first vice president of the government.
The octogenarian's revolutionary activities date to 1952, when he was a medical student at the University of Havana, according to a government website. He fought alongside Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra mountains and has held a variety of posts, including minister of public health, and has been a member of the party's central committee. He has been a deputy of the National Assembly since 1976.
Raul Castro had said at the congress — the first in 14 years — that it was time for a "systematic rejuvenation of the whole chain of party and administrative posts," including the president of the party and of the Council of Ministers.
He proposed in his opening address that term limits be set for holders of public office. "We have arrived at the conclusion that it is advisable to limit the fundamental political and state offices to a maximum period of two consecutive periods of five years," Castro said Saturday at the inauguration of a critical Communist Party meeting.
He was officially elected in 2008.
But he also said Cuba's leadership had failed to prepare a younger generation to take over, leaving the country without "a reserve of substitutes who were adequately prepared."
Last month, Fidel Castro took Cubans by surprise when he announced that he had resigned as first secretary of the Communist Party five years earlier and had no intention of resuming the post.
Even as the congress began, on the party's Web page, Fidel Castro was listed as first secretary.
The congress approved more than 300 economic and political proposals made by Raul Castro, including massive layoffs in the public sector and an expansion of the private sector to soak up some of the unemployed.
The delegates also approved changes under which Cubans would be able to buy and sell homes and cars for the first time in decades but would see their ration books gradually eliminated.
During the closing session, Raul Castro sat next to his ailing brother, who had taken halting steps to reach his chair.
"Fidel, what a pleasure to have you here," said Julio Camacho Aguilera, a member of the Central Committee, to applause from delegates at the Palace of Conventions here. "Although you never left — you will always be in the hearts of all Cubans."
But the elder Castro, known for his lengthy speeches, did not take a turn at the microphone.
"He's being eased to the sidelines," said Professor Bruce Bagley, said chairman of the Department of International Studies at the University of Miami in Florida. "Raul is the heir apparent and is consolidating his power and bringing in people around him with whom he has some confidence and some degree of trust, so the transition to the next generation is glacially slow. And that's what the Sixth Party Congress is reflecting."
Raul Castro must still heed Fidel, Chinese analyst saysPublished April 20, 2011EFE
"We can't say that he has retired just because he left the post of secretary of Cuba's Communist Party to his brother, who told the recently concluded congress that Fidel is the leader even without an official position in the government," Prof. Xu Shicheng of China's Institute of Latin American Studies said.
The expert said that Fidel Castro continues to write articles every day for Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party.
"While that doesn't mean that Raul Castro doesn't exercise power or that he has to ask Fidel's permission to do anything, Fidel generally comments on international affairs and leaves internal matters to Raul," Xu said.
On Tuesday the Chinese government expressed its support for the plan of economic reforms approved by the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, saying that they "will be very important for the development" of the island, which will successfully "construct a socialism with (Cuban) characteristics."
Cuba's economic reforms, like the ones China launched more than 30 years under the direction of Deng Xiaoping, seek "to guarantee the continuity and irreversibility of socialism," according to the resolution of the 6th Congress.
Posted on Tuesday, 04.19.11
Cuba's Culture Minister Prieto oustedBy Juan O. Tamayo
Cuba's longtime culture minister, Abel Prieto, appeared to have been the biggest loser in the Communist Party Congress that wound up Tuesday, being dropped from the party's two top ruling bodies.
Prieto, a novelist known for his relatively open views and long mullet haircut, was dropped from the party's 15-member ruling Political Bureau, as well as its more decorative Central Committee, with more than 100 members.
Party officials made no specific announcement of Prieto's ouster — his name was simply not on the lists of new members of the two bodies that were read Tuesday at the end of the VI Communist Party Congress.
Prieto has served as culture minister since 1997 and previously served as deputy minister and head of the Cuban National Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) — the party-controlled group that claims to represent Cuban intellectuals.
One UNEAC member in Havana said Prieto has been asking for years to be relieved of the ministry so he could return to writing.
Another said he believes Prieto was ousted for allowing too many union members to write sometimes-strident criticisms of the economic reforms that Cuban leader Raúl Castro is pushing.
The reforms seek to move the island away from its Soviet-era command economy and toward a more open system, but they have been harshly criticized as too little or too much, too quick or too slow.
The UNEAC member speculated Prieto might be replaced by Miguel Barnet, 71, a well-known novelist who has defended Castro's reforms.
Publicado el miércoles, 04.20.11
Impuestos discriminatoriosOscar Espinosa Chepe
El presidente Raúl Castro comunicó la posibilidad de contratación de fuerza de trabajo por los cuentapropistas, en su discurso resumen de la sesión de la Asamblea Nacional el 1 de agosto de 2010.
De esta forma se rompía con uno de los dogmas más acendrados durante decenios en Cuba. A tal punto que el Artículo 21 de la Constitución vigente establece: "Se garantiza la propiedad sobre los medios e instrumentos de trabajo familiar, los que no pueden ser utilizados para la obtención de ingresos provenientes de la explotación del trabajo ajeno".
Esta trascendental decisión, que elimina el tabú sobre la contratación de fuerza de trabajo por personas privadas, creó muchas expectativas sobre la posibilidad de que se permitiera el establecimiento de pequeñas y medianas empresas (PYMES), entre otras iniciativas. Un paso muy importante para el surgimiento de puestos de trabajo que facilitaran la reubicación de los trabajadores despedidos por el Estado en el marco del necesario reordenamiento laboral también anunciado.
El 7 de octubre se aprobó la Resolución No. 286 del Ministerio de Finanzas y Precios que, entre otros asuntos, dictó las normas relativas al pago de impuestos por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo, imponibles sobre la base de los salarios, sueldos, gratificaciones y remuneraciones que se paguen al personal que contraten o utilicen los cuentapropistas.
Según esta disposición, en los casos que se emplee personal para ejercer la actividad, será pagado el impuesto por la utilización de fuerza de trabajo aplicando el 25.0% al total de las remuneraciones abonadas, considerándose como remuneración mínima mensual por trabajador contratado el salario medio mensual incrementado en un 50.0%. Cuando sean contratados más de 10 trabajadores y hasta 15 la remuneración mínima será dos veces el salario medio mensual, y cuando se contrate más de 15 será de tres veces el salario medio antes mencionado. Se considera como salario medio mensual el vigente en cada provincia, o en el municipio especial de la Isla de la Juventud, en el ejercicio fiscal anterior, reconocido por la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas.
Si se contratara hasta 10 trabajadores el impuesto a pagar sería el 37.5% del salario medio mensual calculado como establece la Resolución No.286; más de 10 y hasta 15 el tributo será del 50.0%; más de 15 el 75.0%. Por supuesto cuando las remuneraciones reales sean inferiores a la base de cálculo, lo cual sucederá en especial con frecuencia al triplicarse el salario medio mensual –sin ser contemplada la categoría ocupacional– el pago del impuesto por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo podría ser superior al monto efectivo de las remuneraciones.
Este mecanismo es inadmisible y obviamente procura impedir el progreso de los negocios privados. En esas condiciones difícilmente podrán surgir PYMES en Cuba y la creación de suficientes puestos de trabajo para absorber los 1.3 millones de trabajadores que se pretenden reubicar. Producto de ello el gobierno se ha visto obligado a dilatar el cronograma de despidos, por no crearse con la celeridad requerida los puestos de trabajo para las personas excedentes.
Asimismo el esquema establecido es discriminatorio. Los tributos por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo pagados por las entidades estatales y mixtas son considerablemente inferiores, así como abonados en función de las remuneraciones realmente efectuadas, sin multiplicarse por factor alguno, como ahora se impone a la incipiente iniciativa individual.
Este excesivo tributo por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo, junto a otros como el relativo a los ingresos personales, contribuirá a hacer imposible el avance del trabajo por cuenta propia e impide que esta iniciativa sea un factor efectivo en ayudar a sacar el país de la grave crisis actual.
Si la decisión de permitir la contratación de fuerza de trabajo fue positiva, los mecanismos tributarios prácticamente anulan los beneficios que podría rendir, con lo cual pervive el dogma contra la iniciativa privada que tanto daño ha hecho a Cuba.
Economista y periodista independiente cubano.
Publicado el martes, 04.19.11
Eligen a yerno de Raúl Castro al Comité Central del PCC
En la clausura del VI Congreso del Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC) se anunció este martes la designación de Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, yerno del gobernante Raúl Castro, como miembro del Comité Central del PCC. Las candidaturas fueron propuestas por Castro y ratificadas por los delegados asistentes al congreso.
Rodríguez está casado hace 26 años con Deborah Castro Espín, hija de Raúl Castro. El matrimonio tiene dos hijos: Raúl y Vilma.
En la última década ha sido una pieza clave en la nomenclatura castrista. Ha estado a cargo de la Quinta Sección del Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas, que administra el aparato económico y financiero de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Cuba (FAR).
En el Buró Político, José Ramón Machado Ventura fue ratificado como número dos del gobierno, al tiempo que se incluyó a una sola mujer: la titular del PCC en La Habana, Mercedes López Acea. Otra funcionaria, Olga Lidia Tapia Iglesias, aparece como nueva integrante del Secretariado.
En líneas generales los puestos claves del Buró Político siguen estando copados por miembros activos o generales de las fuerzas militares.
La lista de los miembros del Buró Político del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba quedó conformada de la siguiente manera:
1. Raúl Castro Ruz
2. José Ramón Machado
3. Abelardo Colomé
4. Julio Casas
5. Esteban Lazo
6. Ramiro Valdés
7. Miguel Díaz Canel
8. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
9. Leopoldo Cintra Frías
10. Ramón Espinosa Martín
11. Alvaro López Miera
12. Salvador Valdés Mesa
13. Mercedes López Acea
14. Marino Murillo Jorge
15. Adel Izquierdo Rodríguez
Publicado el miércoles, 04.20.11
Abel Prieto, el gran perdedor del VI congreso del PCCJUAN O. TAMAYO
Abel Prieto, ministro de Cultura por más de una década, parece haber sido el mayor perdedor en el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) que concluyó el martes, al ser excluido de los dos principales cuerpos partidistas.
Prieto, un escritor conocido por sus opiniones relativamente abiertas y su tupida melena, fue sacado del Buró Político que gobierna al PCC, con 15 miembros, así como del más decorativo Comité Central, con más de 100 miembros.
Los funcionarios del PCC no hicieron ningún anuncio oficial sobre el despido de Prieto: su nombre, simplemente, no estaba en las listas de los nuevos miembros de los dos cuerpos que fueron leídas al final del cónclave.
Prieto ha sido ministro de Cultura desde 1997. También fue presidente de la oficialista Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC).
Un miembro de la UNEAC en La Habana, que no quiso ser identificado, dijo que Prieto había estado tratando de salirse del Buró Político desde hace años para dedicar más tiempo a escribir.
Otro miembro, que tampoco quiso dar su nombre, consideró que Prieto fue separado de los cargos partidistas por permitir que demasiados miembros de la UNEAC escribieran críticas a veces muy fuertes contra las reformas económicas propuestas por el gobernante Raúl Castro.
Las reformas tratan de alejar a la isla del modelo económico de la era soviética, y llevarla hacia un sistema más abierto. Han sido criticadas desde varios ángulos, lo mismo por ser demasiado rápidas o demasiado lentas como por ser muy amplias o insuficientes.
Uno de los miembros de la UNEAC citados especuló sobre la posibilidad de que Prieto sea remplazado por Miguel Barnet, de 71 años, un escritor que ha defendido las reformas de Castro.